Ten Years of Intensive Effort
( Starting from Ruins )
In July 2001, the Orthodox Church of Albania celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the arrival of Archbishop Anastasios in Albania, as Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. When he arrived in 1991, His Beatitude found the remnants of a crushed and defeated church, which had suffered deeply under the former atheist regime of Enver Hoxha. By the grace of God, and through the vision and energies of Archbishop Anastasios, a resurrection began and flourished. The past ten years have seen monumental growth in all aspects of the church's life. Besides renewing hope and strengthening the faith of the Orthodox people of Albania, the Archbishop has also been a mediator and the artisan of peace in various crises that have occurred in the region during this period.
The following brief summary highlights both the internal and the external work that has been accomplished by the church over the past decade. R E S T O R A T I O N Re-establishing the Religious Life of the Church ? Orthodox parishes with active liturgical lives have been established in many cities and towns, as well as in hundreds of villages. ? Orthodox intellectual groups, women's groups and youth groups, that assist the church with its ecclesiastical work, have been formed. ? In 1998, the synod of the Orthodox Church of Albania was reformed. Ordination of New Clergy ? 120 new clergy, all Albanian citizens, have graduated from the resurrection of Christ Theological Academy. These are in addition to the three Orthodox priests that survived from the previous generation. Theological Education ? In 1992 a theological seminary for the training of the new clergy was opened in an old, run-down hotel in Durres. In 1996, the school relocated to new facilities at St.Vlash-Durres. Women, who will serve as lay leaders in the church, also now receive theological training at the school. ? In September 1998, Holy Cross Ecclesiastical High School opened in Gjirokaster. Housing is available for 90 students. Youth Outreach ? Weekly liturgies and Bible studies are held on the University of Tirana campus. ? Boys and girls camps are held each summer, serving over 600 youths. ? Numerous youth centers exist in cities and villages around Albania. ? A national youth office was established to organize and coordinate activities for youth throughout Albania. ? Youth festivals celebrating Orthodoxy and Albanian culture are sponsored throughout the year. Rebuilding ? Under the direction of the technical office established in 1991, 80 new churches have been built from their foundations, 5 monasteries and 70churches/monumentshave been renovated and restored, and more than 140 churches have been repaired. ? 20 other buildings have been built, such as the Theological Academy complex and the Holy Monastery of St. Vlash near Durres; the archdiocesan center; the diocesan centers of Gjirokaster, Korca and Berat; "Holy Cross" Ecclesiastical Boys High School in Gjirokaster; the Diagnostic Medical Center; the spiritual and educational center of Lushnja; the house for nuns; the guest house in Tirana; youth centers and guest houses in Korca, Elbasan and Kavaja; smaller buildings for nursery schools and clinics in other cities; and Nazareth Center- a complex of Church workshops in Tirana, including a printing press, candle factory, carpentry shop, wood carving shop, and icon and icon restoration studios. Publications ? The church's printing press began publishing the monthly newspaper, "Ngjallja" (Resurrection) in 1992. In 1997, other publications were initiated: the monthly children's magazine, "Gezohu" ( Rejoice), the student bulletin, "Fjala" (Word), the English-language news bulletin, "News from Orthodoxy in Albania," and different liturgical, spiritual, and scientific books.
P I L O T S O C I A L P R O J E C T S Health Care ? Annunciation Diagnostic Medical Center, staffed with some of Albania's finest doctors, administers health care to approximately 5,000 patients each month regardless of religious affiliation. The Center recently opened a same-day surgical center. ? Medical clinics function also in the cities of Kavaja, Lushnja, Korca, and in the village of Jergucat. A mobile dental clinic provides dental care in villages throughout Albania. Education ? 12 nursery schools have been established in the cities of Tirana, Durres, Kavaja, Korca, Elbasan, Pogradec, Lushnja, Saranda, Vlora and Gjirokaster (2).A staff of 50 qualified teachers works at these schools, overseeing the care and education of about 750 children, ages 4-6. ? 10 schools and 6 nurseries in various parts of the country were completely renovated and furnished by the church. Others were supplied with classroom furniture. ? The "Spirit of Love" Institute for Professional Training was establishrd in Tirana-the first institute of its kind in all Albania. A four- semester course is offerede in six different fields: computer science, business management, microbiological laboratory assistants, computerized accounting, iconography, and restoration of cultural artifacts. A faculty comprised of 60 teachers instructs the 300 students enrolled. ? Students come from throughout Albania to attend Holy Cross High School in Gjirokaster. Admission to the school is competitive based on examinations. The high academic standards are attracting many students, and each year applications for admission are increasing. In order to better serve the students, new classroom and dormitory facilities were added recently. Social and Relief Efforts ? Through Diakonia Agape, the social, development and relief office of the Church which was established in 1992, the Church collected and distributed thousands of tons of food, clothing and medicine to public welfare institutions during the political and social crises of 1992, 1994, 1997. ? The Women's Rural Health and Development Program was established by Diakonia Agapes in order to enable rural women to better understand and define their felt needs while encouraging self assistance in the community. Other programs implemented by Diakonia Agapes include t5he emergency assistance program, agricutural development, animal husbandry, school rehabilitation, health clinics, youth centers and festival programs, nursery schools, etc. ? During 1999, when Albania accepted waves of refugees from Kossovo, the Church's Diakonia Agapes office, in conjunction with Action by Churches Together (ACT) of the World Council of Churches, organized an extensive humanitarian program of more than 30,000 refugees received aid in the form of food, clothing, housing and/or medical supplies. ? After the Kossovo war, the church oversaw the only refugee camp to remain open. This camp closed in June 2001. Development Projects ? The Church has supported numerous humanitarian programs, including such things as agricultural projects in the mountainous regions, road construction, telecommunications, schools orphanages, hospitals, institutions for blind and deaf people, and prison ministry ( i.e., it financed a greenhouse in order to provide an income to prisoners ). ? Following the anarchy of 1997, the Church contributed to the repair of destroyed university buildings in Tirana and Gjirokaster. Cultural ? The first Orthodox radio station, "Ngjallja", began airing programs in 1998. ? A Byzantine choir was organized and has now produced three cassettes. An ongoing seminar for the revival of traditional church music was begun. ? A workshop for the conservation of icons was established with the goal of training artists who would revive traditional Orthodox iconography. ? Departments for art preservation and iconography were established at the Institute of Professional Training. ? A scientific research group was appointed to catalogue all monuments. Environment In March 2001, an environmental protection program was started. The project includes the training of 15 post-graduate students who have completed degrees in biology, forest and environmental engineering, and programs to protect the eco-system in the Zvernec area, the course of the river Vjosa, the Forest of Llogara, and garbage management in two cities in Albania. This project has been a co-operative effort between the Church's " Spirit of Love" Foundation and the Departments of Biology at the Universities of Tirana, Athens and Salonica. Ecumenical Involvement ? The Orthodox Church of Albania participates actively in the events of the Orthodox Church worldwide, as well as in various ecumenical conferences and programs. ? The Church is a full member of the World Council of Churches and of the Conference of European Churches, and, in general, it contributes to the efforts for peaceful collaboration and solidarity in Southeastern Europe.
( From the ORTHODOX CALENDAR 2002,published by the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania)